The Smallholder Tea Authority (STA) was formed shortly after independence. By 1990 2,400 ha had been planted by 4900 smallholders, all of whom were required to register and work with the STA, a parastatal with two growers and two other grower representatives on the board. The STA effectively supported smallholders with free seedlings for plantation establishment, free extension, tea and maize inputs on credit, and regular on farm collection of harvested tea with first payment within 10 days. However the STA was never financially strong. During the 1990s increased political interference in the board, diversion of transport to politicians’ use, increasingly late payments, farmer demands for higher prices, declining STA staff and collapse of the input credit system led to severe financial difficulties for the STA, a collapse in field and factory operations, and alienation of farmers who responded by selling to local estates. These welcomed high quality smallholder tea and better utilization of factory capacity and began to offer interlocked input credit and extension advice, some also offering health, education and social services.